My name is Rebecca Lett and I am thrilled to be joining The Graide Network team as a Member Success Manager this summer. Last week I finished my fourth year of teaching middle school and I am excited to transfer my experience in the classroom to The Graide Network.
My passion for education equality and teaching developed when I joined an organization called Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE) while I was in college at the University of Southern California. WYSE is a year-long curriculum-based mentorship program that connects college women with girls in disadvantaged communities. I was assigned a mentee, Ana, and would lead weekly activity-based group sessions at her school on topics including self-confidence, body image, eating disorders, sex education, etc. Ana and I bonded during the weekly WYSE sessions and I was able to help her advocate for her education and develop self-confidence and courage. As I got to know her throughout the year, she opened up to me about her Guatemalan family and what it was like for her to go to school. Our relationship opened my eyes to the inherent inequalities economically disadvantaged kids face in our country and it inspired me to become a teacher.
After graduating from USC in 2012 with a B.A. in Print Journalism, I joined Teach For America in Houston, Texas. I was placed at Ortiz Middle School in the Houston Independent School District as an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher. On the first day of school at Ortiz, I was unexpectedly switched to 7th grade math. Everything I had prepared to teach was suddenly irrelevant, but with a positive attitude I made the most of the first of many challenges I would face that year.
My first semester of teaching was extremely challenging and I was unprepared for the organization and time-management my role as a teacher required. I spent hours after school and on the weekends creating lesson plans, working on my certification and grading student work. I knew feedback was extremely important for my students, however grading every assignment myself wasn’t sustainable. During the second semester of my first year I became more intentional about which assignments students graded themselves in class and which assignments I graded. This strategy did improve my work-life balance as a teacher, but all teachers know grading is ever-present and on-going.
Knowing my background in Print Journalism and love of history and writing, my principal offered me a role as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher for my second year of teaching. I gladly accepted the role and excitedly got to teach my students for a second year in a subject I loved.
At the end of my second year of teaching I applied for and was offered a role as a 5thGrade social studies and writing teacher at KIPP Intrepid Preparatory School in Houston. Since college I had aspired to work for KIPP particularly because of its mission to serve kids through high parent involvement, school culture, student character development curriculum and rigorous academic instruction.
My third year in the classroom was a blast. KIPP Intrepid received a blended learning grant that allowed my students to each receive a Google Chromebook to use in their classes. The technology allowed me to utilize digital programs to supplement and differentiate my daily writing and history instruction. By the end of the year, my 5thgraders could write thesis-driven five-paragraph essays. To get them there, I had to give my students constant, detailed feedback on their writing throughout the year.
At the end of my third year, my principal approached me one morning and asked me if I would be willing to teach 5th Grade English language arts and co-lead the 5thgrade team the next year. She wanted me teaching a tested subject, which was both a compliment and a curse because accepting meant I would lose the creative freedom I had teaching a non-tested subject. I would also, for the fourth year in a row, be teaching an entirely new subject and starting from scratch. But because I believed in my principal’s vision for our students and because reading is one of my favorite things in the world, I trusted her and accepted her offer. The past year has been the best year yet because I felt fully matured as a teacher in terms of my classroom culture and organization.
While planning my move to Chicago, I decided to leave the classroom in order to take advantage of the exciting education technology opportunities that Chicago offers. After learning about The Graide Network, I immediately became passionate about the mission and wished The Graide Network had existed four years ago. After teaching four different subjects and three different grade-levels, I come to The Graide Network understanding the workload teachers have and how important quality feedback is for student growth and achievement. I’m excited to help train and grow our Graiders so that they feel equipped and confident to provide students with tangible, constructive feedback on their work. I eagerly await next school year and am deeply excited about the new role I’ll be playing in supporting students, teachers, and aspiring teachers across the country.
Becca Lett is originally from Dallas, Texas. She graduated with a B.A. in Print Journalism from the University of Southern California in 2012. She joined the Teach For America Houston Corps in 2012 and after completing her committment she then taught at KIPP Houston for two years. She moves to Chicago in July to join The Graide Network full-time.